UA faculty votes 50-2 ‘no confidence’ in Scarborough; Trustees blame faculty union negotiations

UPDATE: Statement by the University of Akron chapter of the AAUP:

“The Chairman is mistaken. The two bodies are quite distinct in purpose and membership,” says John Zipp, Professor and Akron-AAUP Chapter President. Of the 63 members of Faculty Senate, only three members of the AAUP leadership are members of Faculty Senate, and of those, only two were present for the Vote of No Confidence on Thursday.

“It is neither helpful to negotiations, nor responsive to the concerns of Faculty Senate, to dismiss so lightly the issues leading to the Senate’s vote today,” says Zipp.

UPDATE: Statement from William Rich, Faculty Senate Chair, responding to comments by Board of Trustees Chairman Jon Pavloff:

In my view, Board Chairman Pavloff is wrong to imply that today’s action by the Faculty Senate is a bargaining tactic by the members of the faculty union. As a member of the law faculty, which is not in the bargaining unit, I take strong exception to the implication that the Faculty Senate acted in an unprincipled way. Almost all of the other members of the Senate who are not members of the faculty bargaining unit voted in favor of the resolution. One might disagree with the Faculty Senate’s action today, but there should be no doubt that it was a sincere expression of the faculty’s beliefs about President Scarborough’s leadership of the University. Mr. Pavloff says that the Board will continue to work with the Faculty Senate to ensure an effective shared governance process, but by impugning the motives and the integrity of the Faculty Senate he undermines exactly what he claims he wants to ensure.

Standing before a full complement of University of Akron faculty senators, President Scott Scarborough gave a less than stirring review of his first two years in charge of the campus, reading off printed-out PowerPoint slides to again make the case that he’s tackling the two problems the Board of Trustees tasked him with solving: financial instability and declining enrollment.

Minutes later, the senators voted 50-2 in favor of the “no confidence” resolution against Scarborough’s policies and leadership.

faculty senate protestorsThough there has been an uptick in votes of “no confidence” over the last three years, the measure itself is relatively uncommon. There are more than 5,000 colleges and universities in the United States but last year, only 14 held a vote of no confidence. There were 21 such votes in 2014 and 10 in 2013. From 2005 to 2010, there were a total of 29 “no confidence” votes held.

The “no confidence” resolution voted on Thursday lays out a litany of complaints, including:

  • Declining enrollment while other Ohio universities are growing.
  • Miscommunication of the budget situation, describing UA as having a “$60 million budget problem”
  • The 42 percent decline in donations over the summer of 2015.
  • The 72 percent of faculty who stated in fall 2015 they do not have confidence in Scarborough’s ability to lead UA.
  • Scarborough’s attempt to increase student fees.
  • Generally failing to involve faculty in major decisions, from “rebranding” the university to the uptick in outsourcing and his questionable hiring for the CAST dean and the Honors College dean.


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The resolution was the result of an ad hoc committee formed after the November 6 faculty senate meeting.

One faculty member, John Matejkovic, a professor from the College of Business who was on the ad hoc committee, made a pitch to his colleagues not to vote “no confidence” because he didn’t think a move was warranted.

“I think we need to do this [no confidence votes] in a very careful, deliberate fashion,” he said. “I don’t think what we have here does that.”

The other “against” vote came from a representative of the law school who said she wasn’t voting as she personally would have chosen to vote because she would be representing her colleagues, three of four said they were against the resolution.

A member of Polymer Science explained that he was voting on behalf of the majority of his department who he polled with 11 in favor of the “no confidence” resolution and three against.

Daniel Coffey, the political science professor who called for the ad hoc committee to be formed, gave an impassioned speech before the vote, saying he resented the attempts by the administration to tell the public that the faculty supported Scarborough’s decisions.

“Things are wrong here,” he said. “This is an emergency. We have to take action because you know what’s being reported in the press? That was support this. We’re behind it. Our name was used last year that ‘they support this.’ I don’t support this.”

In 2013, the faculty senate at Cleveland State University voted 31-11 to state no confidence in President Ronald Berkman. Despite faculty complaints about being cut out of major decisions and controversy about his $9550 flight to Columbus, his contract was extended last fall through July 2019.

The university has released the following statement from Jonathan T. Pavloff, Chairman, The University of Akron Board of Trustees concerning the vote today by the Faculty Senate:

“Shared governance works best when we come together and strive to find common ground in addressing the large challenges that we face.

“Given the overlapping membership between the Faculty Senate and the AAUP, and the status of current contract negotiations with the AAUP, it is perhaps not surprising that this vote outcome occurred.

“The University’s Board of Trustees remains firmly behind President Scarborough and committed to the strategy his team is implementing to make The University of Akron a truly great public university.

“We will continue to work with Faculty Senate and others to ensure an effective shared governance process and we also will continue to bargain in good faith with the AAUP.”

It is a non-binding resolution that only makes official the faculty’s distrust in the current president’s leadership. The Board of Trustees ultimately holds the final say on Scarborough’s employment. The only acknowledge means for the public to contact the trustees is by way of a generic email:

The Buchtelite, UA’s editorially independent student newspaper, reported in an editorial that trustee Ralph Palmisano recently had a confrontation with student protesters on campus.

“We have no confidence in Scarborough!” one of the demonstrators yelled, referencing the UA faculty senate’s possible vote of no confidence in Scarborough today.

Palmisano turned, faced the protestors, and wryly said, “I have no confidence in you.”

Meanwhile, negotiations between the faculty union and the administration continue to drag out. While Scarborough announced progress at the faculty senate meeting, the Akron’s AAUP chapter released an update to faculty that characterized some of the administrations proposals as “dangerous to faculty.”

Taken as a whole, we saw the University’s response to our comparatively modest amendments to existing language as a concerted attack on tenure and on tenured faculty. We considered the University’s proposals, individually and collectively, as dangerous to faculty, destructive to the university’s mission, and entirely unacceptable.

Some faculty have noted that if the trustees don’t take the no confidence vote seriously and negotiations continue to flounder, a strike authorization vote may soon follow.

CORRECTION: The original headline and copy incorrectly stated the faculty senate voted 49-2 but the official tally is 50-2 in favor of “no confidence.”